Al-Jazeera International Finds Hurdles in Startup

Associated Press media writer David Bauder reports that Al-Jazeera International, the new English-language version of the original Al-Jazeera, is having more trouble than expected in placing the channel into American homes.

The English-language Al-Jazeera International TV network faces enough hurdles to make Olympic champion Edwin Moses tremble.

It has missed its launch date and won’t set another, has no public commitments by anyone to show it in the United States, saw its closest competitor beat it to the market and is the target of a pressure campaign by a group hoping it never airs here.

Al-Jazeera International’s operators are nonetheless pressing forward with plans to create a worldwide news operation, despite a name that immediately raises hackles in the West.

“Give us a fair crack of the whip,” urges Lindsey Oliver, the network’s commercial director.

But former ABC News reporter Dave Marash, whom the network has hired, insists that Al-Jazeera only has a bad name in the U.S., and that the rest of the world respects it.
Marash got a quick lesson in the volatility around his new employer when he received seven invitations to appear on Fox News Channel in the 72 hours after his hiring had been announced. He’s received some double-takes when he cites his affiliation while out reporting, but people “are more curious than hostile,” he said.

“The Al-Jazeera brand name is controversial in the United States,” he said. “Everywhere else in the world it is recognized as one of the most credible brand names. For people who have studied Al-Jazeera and what they do, they’re more than a credible news organization. They’re an historic event in the Arabic-speaking world.”